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Blog/Review of After Life: Cast, Characters and Episodes
Review of After Life: Cast, Characters and Episodes
9 min read

Review of After Life: Cast, Characters and Episodes

9 min read
after-life-cast
Naida AllenJan 30, 2022

Following the third and final season of Netflix's After Life, everyone's hooked and eager for more news about the show. Thrillz reports with the lowdown – and there are a few spoilers.

What is After Life all about?

When Netflix announced After Life in 2019, there were a few skeptics about the premise of the show; but low and behold it delivered the most bittersweet, tear-jerking, laugh-out-loud masterpiece of the 21st century. No exaggeration. It's received 6 nominations and 3 awards, including Best Comedy Series from the TV Choice Awards. It asks existential questions concerning life after death, a human's purpose, relationships, survival and more.

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With some tongue-in-cheek humour and mildly offensive characters (who represent those people who are stuck in their ways) After Life was an incredibly smart commentary on mental health and the wonderfully complex thing we call "life". Join us as we deep dive into the world and characters of this incredible television series.

Ricky Gervais as Tony Johnson

The genius Gervais was the mastermind behind the series, who wrote, directed and played the role of Tony Johnson. Ricky Gervais is known for his projects like the critically acclaimed British sitcom The Office as David Brent, Idiot Abroad, Extras and the film The Invention of Lying. In the majority of his works, there is a commentary on society and everyday values – hence why the style fits so well in After Life.

Ricky Gervais as Tony Johnson with Brandy the Dog. Image credit: Netflix.
Ricky Gervais as Tony Johnson with Brandy the Dog. Image credit: Netflix.

In After Life season one, set in the fictional town "Tambury", we're introduced to a depressed Tony Johnson mourning his wife Lisa Johnson. When his wife dies after a lengthy battle with breast cancer, Tony's whole world is turned upside down, and he tries to navigate life without her.

Tony works as an investigative journalist for a dried-up local newspaper: The Tambury Gazette. Whilst mourning Lisa, David struggles with the meaning of life and in the second season, Tony contemplates suicide as he fails to see "what is the point" without his late wife.

The quaint town of Tambury (filmed in Hemel Hampton). Image credit: Netflix.
The quaint town of Tambury (filmed in Hemel Hampton). Image credit: Netflix.

Tony's pessimism seeps into his daily life, and quickly the regrets start piling up. He wonders whether he took his luck for granted, and whether he could have done more as a husband. Along the way, we're introduced to several characters that shape Tony's existence, and vice versa...

Kerry Godliman as Lisa Johnson

Although we only see Lisa in the eyes of Tony, through flashbacks and home videos, Kerry's performance is undeniably on point. She's featured across TV and film, such as Our Girl and Adult Material. Lisa is a happy-go-lucky woman, who is an artist and the most spontaneous of the two. Her infectious positivity shines through, even as she battles death.

Tony and Lisa before death strikes. Image credit: Netflix.
Tony and Lisa before death strikes. Image credit: Netflix.

Lisa records her journey so that Tony remembers her good and bad days. These accounts feature throughout the series, and Tony clings on to her every word. Ricky Gervais was also clever to include footage of Tony and Lisa living together, showing their marriage, random moments like moving in, adopting their adorable dog and the pairs child-like prank humour. There was a clear disparity in Tony's character when Lisa was alive – and that's what adds to the wholesome nature of the couple.

Tony Way as Lenny

Possibly one of After Life's favourite characters is Lenny, who works as the "photographer" (it's literally a crappy digital camera) alongside Tony. The running gag is that he's constantly eating, to which Tony marvels at and often ridicules him in jest. (Pot calling the kettle black, here.) Tony wonders how a "fatty" like Lenny will ever find love, and this is one of the key reminders of the show: the right person is out always there.

Tony, Lenny and Matt - who's your favourite? Image credit: Netflix/The Tab.
Tony, Lenny and Matt - who's your favourite? Image credit: Netflix/The Tab.

If you're sat there frustrated wondering "where have I seen this guy before", it's probably because Tony Way has starred in Game of Thrones, and alongside Ricky Gervais in Extras and The Office. Fans of Tony Way will also be excited to know that he also sends personalised video messages and greetings to make anyone's day!

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Tom Basden as Matt Braden

Tom is Tony's brother-in-law and also the editor at the Tambury Gazette. Matt worries over Tony, and in doing so neglects his own sorrow for Lisa's death. He faces some issues as a married man and father, but prefers to help others rather than himself.

In season 3, we see he's actually a super competitive health freak and tries to duel Tony in a series of sports games, until he suffers a mild heart attack. Matt is baffled that Tony is actually fitter than he is, even though he's a borderline alcoholic and rarely exercises. Gervais uses this as an opportunity to comment on how "life isn't fair", and that stress is the biggest killer. (Big mood.)

Lisa falls to breast cancer. Image credit: Netflix.
Lisa falls to breast cancer. Image credit: Netflix.

Basden is well known for the film David Brent: Life on the Road, which is a follow up of The Office and won the Golden Trailer Award in 2016.

David Bradley as Ray Johnson

David Bradley plays Tony's bad-mouthing dad with dementia, Ray Johnson. Tony struggles to bond with his dad and lacks patience in caring for him. Ray was besotted with Lisa, and to Tony's annoyance, regularly forgets that she's passed away.

There are some really bittersweet moments here, where we see the difficulties of aging and the importance of treasuring each other presently.

The father-son duo. Image credit: Netflix.
The father-son duo. Image credit: Netflix.

Bradley is a memorable face on screen, having starred as the grumpy Argus Filch in Harry Potter, as well as Game of Thrones, Hot Fuzz and more. The two have great on-screen chemistry and really capture that intense father-son relationship.

Ashley Jensen as Emma

Ah, the Scottish lass that you'll know by voice as well as face. Ashley Jensen has starred in Arthur Christmas, Nativity!, Ugly Betty (basically every single popular show and film of the naughties) and has also worked alongside Ricky Gervais and Tony Way in the past.

Emma cares for Ray in the nursing home. Image credit: Netflix.
Emma cares for Ray in the nursing home. Image credit: Netflix.

In After Life, Ashley Jensen plays the role of Emma, who works in the nursing home where Tony's dad resides. Emma is pretty smitten for Tony, and the two try their awkward attempt at dating – tumbling into hurdles along the way. In After Life series three, Emma reveals that she's unhappy and feels she's wasted her life. It's relatable for many, and we're left hoping she'll get her happily ever after.

Diane Morgan as Kath

Diane has starred in the phenomenal Me Before You, comedy sitcom Mandy and the recent Netflix TV movie Death to 2020. Kath is another member of the Tambury Gazette who sells advertising. Her and Tony clash more than a snowman in summer; she's spiritual and open-minded, confident on the outside, but sensitive on the inside.

Kath and Tony don't always see face to face. Image credit: Netflix.
Kath and Tony don't always see face to face. Image credit: Netflix.

Kath is desperate to find love and is incredibly lonely. She attends a "smiling class" which is run by an over-enthusiastic yoga instructor (played by TikTok's Cole Anderson-James) where she breaks down in tears. Aw, bless!

Tony eventually grows a liking to her, and actually helps her on several occasions despite his blunt candour. These are the seeds that Tony's heart is still full even though his bitterness shines on.

Penelope Wilton as Anne Pearson

You may have recognised Penelope from the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Downton Abbey, and in After Life she takes on the role of a widower. Anne meets Tony in their local graveyard, where they bond over the mutual death of their spouses.

Graveyard buddies, Tony and Anne. Image credit: Netflix.
Graveyard buddies, Tony and Anne. Image credit: Netflix.

Anne is Tony's voice of reason. She has a more pragmatic view on life, and despite his wife's death, she encourages Tony to live on and not feel guilty about it. Anne's the the agony aunt we all need.

Joe Wilkinson as Pat

A mimic on the well-loved character "Postman Pat" is Joe Wilkinson, as Tony's postman, Pat... Ah Ricky Gervais, you clever bean! Pat's first introduction is hilarious, and the nosy guy delivers mail in the most obtrusive way: by reading it and reciting it back to Tony. Oh, he also decides to take a bath in Tony's bathroom in between his rounds...

Postman Pat! Image credit: Netflix.
Postman Pat! Image credit: Netflix.

Pat also meets Roxy, a sex worker played by Roisin Conaty, and tries to navigate a modern relationship with her alongside his slightly misogynistic attitude.

Wilkinson began his career as a stand-up comedian in 2004, winning the Hackney Empire New Act award in So You Think You're Funny. The actor has also started in The Cockfields and Anna & Katy. His ditsy portrayal of the postman is really not one to miss!

Jo Hartley as June

June is a sweet-natured single mother who loves to bake and help out in the community. We meet June in the first series, when she's interviewed with her son for one of the strangest hobbies in a running gag of bad news stories. During this time, she meets Lenny and the two become an odd but cute item.

James can play recorders with his nose... Image credit: Netflix.
James can play recorders with his nose... Image credit: Netflix.

Ethan Lawrence as James

June's son, James, is an aspiring actor who works in the local Tambury amateur theatre group led by the flamboyant Ken Otley (who is also his agent). He's first introduced as the boy who plays instruments with his nose – a story that Tony begrudgingly has to cover.

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James' character develops along the series, including finding his voice, flying the nest and making friends. Ethan Lawrence is most known for his role as Joe in Jack Whitehall's Bad Education and is also on Thrillz! We're certain that this role will open many doors for him...

David Earl as Brian Gittins

Possibly one of the strangest (and arguably creepy) characters is Brian. He's a self-proclaimed pupeteer and struggling comedian – though his jokes are borderline offensive – and he's a smelly, lazy hoarder whose job is to deliver the Tambury papers.

Brian the joker. Image credit: Netflix.
Brian the joker. Image credit: Netflix.

The gag is that Brian's ex-wife (Wendy Albiston) left him for Micky the Gypsy (Ricky Grover). Although he paints a brave face, deep down we know that there's more to the man.

Kath Hughes as Coleen

In the final six episodes of After Life season 3, Coleen joins the Tambury team as the new intern. She has no experience or desire to learn, her only motivation is to escape the grip of her controlling mother. In the final episode, the plot alludes to the fact that Brain may have found his match. You'll have to watch it to find out.

What happens in the third season of After Life?

Since the series first aired, the audience was left wondering what will happen to Tony and the mini-stories of his friends. Will Tony find his purpose? Who will Kath fall in love with? Does Emma find happiness? In the final episode, the journey reaches a timely, yet realistic conclusion.

The final scene had us bawling our eyes out. Image credit: Netflix.
The final scene had us bawling our eyes out. Image credit: Netflix.

The final scene shows Tony walking into the distance with a mirage of Lisa and Brandy the dog. Yep, you're left sniveling and laughing simultaneously like an absolute goon. The message: through life and death, there is always light.

What do we rate it?

Rotten Tomatoes may have given After Life an audience score of 63% but we can wholeheartedly tell you that it's a solid 8/10. From script to delivery, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Those who enjoy dark humour and want to feel all the emotions in 30 minutes, you will not be disappointed.

By the way...

If you didn't pick up on the hints above, here's another reminder that you can book a personalised video message from the After Life's favourite characters right here on Thrillz! Whether it's a special occasion or pick-me-up, you're in for a real treat.

Naida Allen
Naida AllenCopywriter
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